Flashback Friday

by Eryn Hiscock

Subject: James Byron Dean Bio-Unit, Biodegradable Model, Serial #08021931-30091955 Verbatim transcript from encounter of XXX-XII Time: 13:00-13:13.
Place: Transformative Genetics Laboratories, Room 44-1227

Dr. Franco Alia: “Testing, testing, testing. Re: James Dean Bio-Unit, Biodegradable Model, Serial #08021931-30091955. Sir, please state your name.”

Jimmy’s voice, impatient: “Who wants to know?”

Franco: “Mr. Dean, please cooperate or your cigarettes will once again be confiscated.”

Jimmy: “Those aren’t goddamn Chesterfields. I’m not so stupid I can’t tell the difference.”

Franco: “We’d like to ask you some questions, Mr. Dean.”

Jimmy: “I’m still processing the idea that my little silver Porsche Spyder was something out of H.G. Wells…”

Franco: “Do you go by Jimmy or James?”

Jimmy: “Friends call me Jimmy. You can call me James.”

Franco: “Where are you from, James Dean?”

Jimmy: “Indiana, originally.”

Franco: “Parents’ names?”

Jimmy: “Winton and Mildred Dean.”

Franco: “James, describe to me the last thing you remember before arriving here.”

Jimmy: “I was moving toward the light. I thought I was back on Highway 46 and driving into the sun toward Paso Robles because it was late afternoon and the sun was lowering. Some guy turned into my lane and I felt this incredible pain for a split second and the next thing I know, some Brunhild opens my glass casket with heat fogging everything up. I sat up feeling like a steamed bun with what I thought was the sun shining in my eyes but it was only Brunhild blinding me with her doctor’s flashlight.”

Franco: “Your Persona Unit assistant’s name is Fernice, not Brunhild.”

Jimmy: “Then, Brunhild asks me to touch my nose with my left hand, reach around in my pocket, comb my hair, and show my teeth like a prize collie. Jesus Christ. Let a guy collect his thoughts before you start that shit.”

Franco: “Okay, James. We’ll strive to do better with future assessments, but our purpose here today is to ensure your fitness to attend a party. Do you enjoy parties?”

Jimmy: “Sometimes.”

Franco: “There will be history-loving fans and other vintage celebrity guests in attendance.”

Jimmy: “Like who?”

Franco: “Marilyn Monroe, Amelia Earhart, Elvis Presley, and John F. Kennedy. Then, after the party, we’ll send you all to a holding outpost as you wait in queue and when your number comes up, you’ll be returned to a home-like place, terraformed and similar to Earth to live out the rest of your natural life. You’ll be riding on a spaceship. Didn’t you dream of flying on a spacecraft when you were a boy?”

Jimmy: “Not especially.”

Franco: “Every boy wants to be an astronaut, James.”

Jimmy: “Not me. Not during my lifetime.”

Franco: “Here’s your chance to be one.”

Jimmy: “I’ll pass.”

Fierce stage whispering in the background between Franco and Fernice.

Franco, in his hypnotist’s voice: “James, you’ll be receptive to all suggestions going forward. When you sign an autograph at the party, for example, what will you write?”

Jimmy laughs: “See you in Hell.”

Franco: “No, James. That’s incorrect. If asked for an autograph, try writing ‘Love, James Dean’ or ‘Your friend, James Dean’. All right?”

Jimmy: “I prefer my way.”

Franco: “For the purpose of this party, James, you’ll sign the words I just quoted to you. Repeat them.”

In the background, there’s the sound of Franco muttering to Fernice ‘not enough! More inhibitors!’, repeating: ‘receive, receive, receive’ like a mantra in a hypnotist’s voice before the sound of his snapping fingers.

There’s a brief pause before Jimmy answers.

Jimmy, in a robotic monotone: “‘Love, James Dean’ or ‘Your Friend, James Dean’ is what I’ll sign.”

Franco: “Excellent. That’s very good, James. And when someone asks for your picture, what will you do?”

Jimmy: “Smile and say ‘cheese!’”

Franco: “Excellent, James. Let’s keep this up.”

Franco whispers aside to Fernice: “Semi-hypnotic, high-functioning trance. Maintain maximal inhibitors on Broca’s and follow Subdue Upkeep Protocol 1227-4 directly to basal ganglia. Limit to twenty common friendly phrases, platitudes, and his three movie titles. Release all inhibitors post-party window with access to full brain function till expiration date.”

Franco: “I think we’re all set, James. Please repeat for me now what you might say to a party guest?”

Jimmy: “Nice to meet you.”

Franco: “Superb. Shake their hand. Demonstrate your handshake for me.”

Pause. Franco reaches out his hand. Jimmy clasps it and tentatively shakes.

Franco: “Very good. What else might you ask the guests?”

Jimmy: “Are you enjoying the gala?”

Franco: “Wonderful. That’s exactly right, James. You’re doing so well.”

Jimmy: “Looking forward to it. So nice to see you. Thank you for coming. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Remember: there’s no ‘I’ in team.”

Franco: “Thank you, James. That’s very good.”

Jimmy: “A stitch in time saves nine. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. I appreciate your kind words.”

Franco: “Okay, James. That’s enough for now.”

Jimmy: “You can call me Jimmy. I always wanted to be an astronaut.”

Eryn Hiscock’s writing has been published in literary journals, zines and anthologies internationally. Her online articles have earned millions of views. Her most recent publications appear in It Calls From The Forest, Volume 2 (Eerie River Publishing, Canada), and Nine Cloud Journal’s inaugural issue. She’s presently hard at work on a speculative fiction novel.